Title: Letting Go
Author: Janine Ose
Rating: PG (I think)
Spoilers: All Men Are Beasts
Distribution: B/G Shippers and Watching Me, Watching You (everyone else please ask first)
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox, WB and Mutant Enemy.
Summary: Buffy tells Giles of Angel's return. In response to a challenge at Watching Me, Watching You
Feedback: Please, as long as it's not flames. My muse is deathly afraid of fire.
Buffy slipped silently into the library, unseen by any of the students milling about in the halls. On shaky legs she made her way into Giles' office, quietly shutting the door behind her. Leaning back against the door she stared at him, her eyes wide with shock. Vaguely she heard him call her name but an insistent buzzing noise filled her ears, drowning out everything else. She saw him jump to his feet as her knees buckled and dimly registered being lifted into his strong arms and set gently on the threadbare sofa. As her vision clouded and her mind grew hazy, she clung to him, small whimpers escaping her lips. Then, mercifully, blackness descended and the nightmare was no more.
When her eyes fluttered open, she found herself staring into his concerned green ones. A surge of guilt shot through her and she pushed herself to a sitting position. "Are you all right?" he asked quietly. Mutely she nodded even though her mind screamed at her that no, she wasn't all right, that she would never be all right again. Shivering, she pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them, hugging them tightly to her chest. Giles watched her closely, his concern mounting as she remained silent and still under his scrutiny. Suddenly she turned her face towards the wall, a solitary tear tracking down over the curve of her cheek. "I need to tell you something," she whispered. "But I'm afraid."
Giles froze a shiver of fear racing up his spine. "You can tell me anything," he assured her in a calm voice. A sob shook her shoulders and she turned her pain filled eyes to his. "Angel's not in hell anymore. I found him last night," she choked out, tears running down her cheeks. "Somehow he's come back and I don't know what to do."
Giles tensed, his mind going completely blank. Memories flooded him and images of the torture Angelus had inflicted upon him flashed before his eyes. Pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes in a vain attempt to block out the images he shook his head. "No," he rasped. "It's impossible. You made a mistake." Buffy sniffed, wiping her eyes on her shirtsleeve. "I didn't make a mistake. It's him," she told him flatly. "NO!" he yelled angrily, staring at her with burning eyes.
Buffy's heart constricted in her chest at the sight of her normally unflappable Watcher struggling to control his fear, pain and rage. In that instant all the feelings she thought she had for the vampire vanished and for the first time everything became clear. Pushing her own pain aside, she moved to crouch before Giles, gently taking his hands in hers. "It's him Giles," she insisted softly. "There is no doubt in my mind." His hands gripped hers tightly, only her Slayer strength saving her fingers from being broken. "Why would they send him back?" he muttered in confusion.
Silently asking him to forgive her for what she was about to do, she gazed steadily into his eyes. "It's not Angelus, Giles, it's Angel." His jaw tightened and he stared at her, his gaze burning a hole in her soul. "They are the same," he hissed. Buffy shook her head. "No, they aren't the same." Giles growled low in his throat and ripped his hands from hers. Jumping to his feet, he began to pace the small office, knocking the chair he had been on over in the process. "Takes his side, always his side," he muttered as he paced, unmindful of the pain that filled Buffy's eyes. "Nothing I do is ever enough. It never matters. All she cares about is him. Just once I want her to put me first, to think about what it is I'm feeling. Got to make her understand, got to make her see what is right, what is real. He's not real. His love isn't real. I'm real. My love is real. And it's right." Tears slipped quietly down her cheeks and she bowed her head knowing, in her heart, that she deserved his anger but not his love.
Giles continued to pace, ignoring her at his feet, his mind clouded with painful memories. Jenny, lying dead in his bed. Angelus, breaking his fingers. The sound of the whip as it whistled through the air before landing painfully across his back. The feel of the warm blood as it ran in rivulets down his skin. The agony as his heart broke when Angelus taunted him with talk of his night with Buffy, knowing all the while just how much Giles loved her, whispering about how much he enjoyed taking from her what Giles had dreamed of claiming as his own. A painful shudder wracked his body as he remembered his own inability to withstand the crazy Drusilla. Bile rose in his throat as he recalled mumbling the words that would set Acathla free, wishing they would just kill him and be done with it. Anger surged through him, anger at the memory of Spike setting him free with pity and understanding in his eyes, anger at Buffy for stopping him from killing Angelus, anger at Xander for lying to her, anger at Joyce for uttering the words that sent Buffy away, anger at Jenny for lying to them all and anger at himself for failing. But most of all, and all consuming rage that Angel had dared take what Giles knew in his soul to be his.
Whirling around, he slammed his fist into the wall, not even noticing the pain as the impact split his knuckles open. "Not his!" he shouted. "She is not his! She is mine!" Buffy climbed to her feet and took his hand, gently guiding him to the sofa. He stared at her with dazed and confused eyes. "Tell me what you're feeling Giles," she pleaded. "Don't shut me out, not this time." "Hurts, so bad," he whispered. "He was our friend, my friend. Yet he did this to me," he spat, ripping off his shirt and showing her his back. Buffy inhaled sharply, gently tracing the scars with her fingers. "And even after he still had you. I did everything I could yet he still had you," he continued hoarsely. "Why? Why wasn't anything I did good enough?" Buffy hung her head, unable to face him. "I was afraid," she mumbled, wincing inwardly at the absolute absurdity of the words.
Giles laughed bitterly. "You were afraid of me? Oh that's good. You feared me yet you slept with a vampire. That makes a lot of sense now, doesn't it?" Her head flew up and her eyes flashed angrily. "It doesn't make sense," she yelled. "I know it doesn't make sense. Don't you think I've tried to figure it out? God, Giles, the entire time I was gone I dreamed of you. Every time I closed my eyes I saw your face and the guilt and pain made me wish I was dead. Knowing what he did to you, to Jenny, to everyone else ate away at my heart until I didn't think I had any heart left." She clenched her hands tightly in her lap. "But then I came home and bit by bit I realized that I was wrong. I did have a heart left. It just wasn't mine anymore, it was yours," she finished with a sigh.
He wasn't about to let her off the hook that easily. "You left me, left me when I needed you the most," he pressed. "Part of me understood why but part of me hated you for it." His voice wavered, but he forced himself to continue. "I had done nothing but stand by you from the day we met, yet you left me here to deal with all of it on my own. That just about killed me. I couldn't believe that the woman whom I loved more than anything in the world would just leave me when I was in such pain. And then I blamed myself for being selfish. Made excuses for you, your age, the fact that it was Angel and not Angelus you sent to hell, so on and so on." He heaved a ragged sigh, and dragged his hands through his hair. "But the fact remained that you left. And we carried on, without you."
Tears ran freely down her cheeks, as she saw for the first time, the depths of his pain. "Then when you came back I wanted to throttle you even as I wanted to kiss you. I was angry at myself for being so happy that you came back because you had hurt me so much but again I shoved it aside. But the pain has never gone away. Every time I see you staring into space, or doodling on your notepad, a part of me wants to hit you for still thinking of him." A sad smile crossed his face. "But I can't. I can't hate you for loving him because, God help me, I love you. But I can hate him, and I do. With every fiber of who I am I hate him. And that will never change because no matter whether it was Angelus or Angel that took such delight in causing me and the others so much pain, every time I see that face I will always remember what he did. What he did to me, to Jenny, and to you. So do not ask me what you should do because left to me, I would shove a stake into his heart and feel no sorrow at doing so. You, I can forgive. Him, I cannot." Spent, he hung his head in his hands and for the first time in months, wept.
Buffy's heart pounded as she watched this strong, gentle, man cry. Hesitantly she wrapped her arms around him and held him, her cheek resting against his hair. As his tears slowed, she brushed his hair off his forehead and pressed her lips against it. "I love you Giles," she murmured. "I love you." He flinched away from her but her arms held him firm. "Please don't," he begged. "I don't want or need your pity." Grabbing his shoulders, she shook him. "Listen to me Giles," she demanded in a low voice. "I love you. And, God knows why since I sure don't deserve it, you love me too. That is more than I could ever hope for." She brushed her lips gently against his and slowly got to her feet. "Maybe someday, I'll be worthy of that gift," she whispered sadly as she reached for the door. His fingers wrapping around her wrist stopped her short. "Don't run, not this time," he begged urgently.
Buffy refused to face him, afraid of what she would see in his eyes. "I don't, I'm afraid, I," she whispered. Gently he turned her to face him, his anger forgotten as he saw the hope and uncertainty that mingled in her eyes. "Please, just, let me love you," he pleaded. She bit her lip, her emotions swirling around inside her. So much promise in those words. Could she live up to it? He already had her heart, she had told him so. What was she so afraid of? Taking a deep breath, she placed her hand on his chest. "Only if you let me love you," she replied softly, holding her breath as she waited for his answer. His eyes closed and he swallowed past the lump in his throat. Did he have it in him to once again be the man she loved? He opened his eyes and stared intently into hers. Seeing her love for him reflected in the depths he slowly nodded. Buffy exhaled noisily. Standing on tiptoe, she kissed him again, smiling against his lips as he tentatively responded to the caress. A moment later he drew back and pulled his shirt on, rummaging around in his desk for something to bandage his hand with. Buffy got the first aid kit and tenderly cleaned the cuts, kissing away the sting of antiseptic before bandaging them carefully. Taking her hand in his, he squeezed it gently. "Let's go see Angel, together," he told her in a shaky voice. "It's time to let the pain go."